Unknown Food Critic / Eyewitness News
We continue a series to help connect some of your New Year’s resolutions to the New Orleans dining world. Here’s another that should be a joy to fulfill this year: trying something new. We all have our old favorites, but if you have a taste for something different -- and maybe even a little exotic -- you’ll find more options than ever around town. Here are four picks from different corners of the globe:
Jamila’s Mediterranean Cuisine: 7808 Maple St., New Orleans, 504-866-4366
The idea of a “Mediterranean” restaurant is a diverse one that can span from Italian to Greek to Middle Eastern. It also touches northern Africa, whose specialties fill the menu at this small, cozy, warmly-welcoming Tunisian bistro. The cuisine is a blend of African and French, with steamed mussels in a wine and garlic broth and escargot sharing the table with tuna wrapped in phyllo pastry (brik au thon) and homemade lamb sausage (merguez). Tajines, or meat roasted and served in domed terra cotta vessels, and large couscous dishes with vegetables, meats and sauce are the centerpieces, though you can play it safe with steaks or fish too. If you’ve sampled the crawfish, zucchini and spinach bisque at Jazz Fest, here’s the place to find it all year.
Churra’s Brazilian Grill: 3712 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 504-467-9595
In the way Cajuns are known for their crawfish and big festive boils, Brazilians are known for their meat and the elaborate, generous format they’ve evolved for serving it. Churra’s is modeled after the semi-self-serve steakhouses found all over Brazil, and it’s a fun place to guide your own feast or just pop in for a quick lunch. Grab a plate and head over to the grill man working a big rotisserie in the corner, loaded with skewers holding a dozen or more types of meat. Help yourself to the buffet of sides and salads and then your whole plate is put on a scale and you’re charged by its weight. You can sample various sausages, and even chicken hearts, but don’t miss the picanha, a classic Brazilian cut of beef.
Little Korea: 3301 S. Claiborne Ave., New Orleans, 504-821-5006
Korean barbecue is a major phenomenon in some cities, though here we’ve had scant opportunities to try it. Little Korea, however, is a new outpost for this hands-on style of eating. The restaurant looks like a fast food joint from the outside (it used to be a Taco Bell) but inside it is a much nicer, family-run place. Meals start with portions of kimchi and other pickled salads, and if you opt for barbecue the waitress brings a portable gas stove and pan to your table and cooks it up right there. Pluck the marinated, garlicky chicken, beef or ribs from the sizzling pan and wrap it up with lettuce, rice and sauce. You can get big, spicy soups and stir-fries too, but the barbecue is the way to go.
Cafe Abyssinia: 3511 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504-894-6238
Mention Ethiopian food in this town and you might get a puzzled look. There just aren’t many opportunities to try this cuisine in our part of the country, and before Café Abyssinia opened in 2010 the city hadn’t counted a single Ethiopian restaurant for years. But those who have experience with this style of cooking know it can be delicious, and fun. The essential menu consists of a variety of heavily-spiced stews ladled onto injera bread, a stretchy, crepe-like starch that serves simultaneously as your plate and your utensil. The platters also come with baskets of more injera that you rip up and use as single-use utensils, dredging a piece through the entrée and popping the whole thing into your mouth. This is a very bare-bones operation, but bring your own wine and a dose of patience for the front of the house and you’ll come away with a memorable dining experience.